The Amanda Gorman effect: poetry on the rise
Sales of the poet's work rose following her inauguration performance - plus, our pick of the black British poets to listen to next
If the US’s Youth Poet Laurate’s performance at President Joe Biden’s inauguration left you hungry for more spoken word, you’re not alone. Sales spiked for Amanda Gorman’s poetry collections after her reading, sending her incredible body of works straight to the top of the Amazon book charts. The Hill We Climb is an example of the power of words, and the beauty, strength, anger and love that can flow from one individual to a community and, in Amanda’s case, outwards to the rest of the world.
For some of us, poetry is forever associated with the humdrum of the school classroom and endless lessons of dissecting stanzas - but it shouldn’t have to be that way. The truth is, poetry can be the most political and emotionally charged writing and performance art around. What’s more, there’s an exciting and explosive group of contemporary poets, which have grown from poetry’s strong roots in the UK. For more lyrical wonders, here are four you’ll want to sit next to your Amanda Gorman collections…
You might already know Warsan’s name thanks to Beyonce, whose visual album Lemonade included much of Warsan’s work. Queen Bey sent droves of her fans the poet’s way, and they’ll have found a brilliant body of the Somali-British poet’s work which is steeped in storytelling. What makes her stand out is her ability to bring us the best character-driven poetry, which touches on issues such as immigration and gender. Try Our Men Do Not Belong to Us to get a real taste. It’s not just poetry Warsan excels at, either. She also wrote the short film Brave Girl Rising, which was narrated by Tessa Thompson and David Oyelowo.
He’s won just about every prestigious poetry prize in Britain, including Ted Hughes, Somerset Maugham and the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year, and continues to rack up the accolades. Born to an English mother and Jamaican father, Raymond is deaf and used his experience and identity as the inspiration for his remarkable collection, The Perseverance.
Multi-talented and multi-disciplined, Malika Booker’s work spans arts and education. Notably, though, she’s a renowned poet whose storytelling skills are second to none. The Royal Shakespeare Company thinks so too, as they made her their inaugural poet in residence. Where to start with Malika’s poetry? Try her much-lauded second collection, Pepper Seed.
From one Young Poet Laureate in the US to another here in the UK. Meet Theresa Lola, who held that prestigious title in 2019 as well as a clutch of other prizes and fellowships. A British-Nigerian, she was commissioned by the Mayor of London’s Office to write and read a poem in honour of the suffragette Millicent Fawcett. It’s called For Those Who Listen When Courage Calls, and will send chills down your spine. Watch it while you order a copy of her debut poetry collection, In Search of Equilibrium.